Technology

Orange Business Services: “Farmers will be the biggest blockchain users in France tomorrow”

Antoine Maisonneuve director of the blockchain program at Orange Business Services, a business services subsidiary of the Orange group, which employs about fifteen people tolock. He is also President of Alliance Blockchain France, an association of companies and universities whose mission to deploy a shared and independent blockchain infrastructure. He explains what this project consists of and details his first agricultural use case.

L’Usine Digitale: What is the goal of the Alliance Blockchain France that you lead during the first year?

Antoine Maisonneuve: Initially, OBS wanted to create its own Orange blockchain for its customers: a blockchain whose identification, thanks to a digital identity wallet, would become the basis of trust. But it quickly became clear that this didn’t make sense, as the stakes went way beyond Orange.

The alliance was launched to create an interoperable identity layer to make governance easier. To do this, you need to create a common base that will cover many use cases. Our goal is to develop wallets that can be used by businesses and the general public much more easily than those that exist in cryptocurrencies to make transactions between wallets rather than between IP addresses. The first use case is agricultural data with Agriconsent.

Why use blockchain?

For reasons of security and technological simplicity regarding peer-to-peer connections. The more actors interacting with the platform, the more interesting the blockchain is for managing P2P exchanges.

Why not use a public blockchain?

Because we do not control its management. We, as Orange, do not risk exposing our clients to blockchains, the governance and sustainability of which we have no control over. We need an infrastructure that is managed in a way that is compatible with our clients’ needs. The subtlety is that we adhere to the philosophy of a public blockchain: anyone can come and connect. It is open to all companies operating in France.

We are also going to build on the existing blockchain bases that we are currently choosing. In Europe, some are already in use on national networks such as Hyperledger Besu, Iota, Hyperledger Fabric, and there are also French technologies such as Tezos. In the meantime, we are using the Spanish sovereign blockchain for our experiments.

What is the Agriconsent project?

We have been working on consent to agricultural data. It should be noted that large agricultural operators, whose machines are equipped with sensors, have access to huge amounts of information. They know everything they collect all over the planet. AgriConsent aims to protect this agricultural data, which farmers today do not have the opportunity to choose whether they agree to share it and with whom. The project consists of two parts: a data exchange platform and a consent part.

The work of OBS specifically addresses the digital identity to which this consent may be linked. Blockchain acts here as a trusted third party at the level of the agricultural ecosystem. We start production of pilot projects in October. The Agdatahub platform will be deployed in early 2023. The project is fully in line with the spirit of the Data Governance Act, GDPR for companies, which will apply in 2023.

How will it work?

The wallet is a mobile application for individuals linked to a cloud wallet for legal entities. We use this app to connect with Agriconsent via France Connect account. The digital identity created in this way confirms your civil and professional identity, it certifies that you are the rightful beneficiary. The platform then allows the generation of contracts according to the choice of the farmers. A company that wants to access a farmer’s data goes through the platform and everything is managed automatically, in P2P. The reward can be defined, for example. Tomorrow, farmers will become the largest blockchain users in France!

What are the prospects for such a project?

We will find this use case across all sectors that present this data management challenge. media and travel agencies, for example, who use photographs and need to know who the author is to avoid disputes over intellectual property; or in transport, where such a platform could allow carriers to contact carriers to manage package traceability.

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